Tea and Chat with Bluebell Kitchens

It was time for tea and chat Erica and Charlie, they are Bluebell Kitchen and they make the most amazing cakes! So when they were looking for new imagery they knew they needed a commercial photographer.

They commissioned some commercial photography of their latest creations and I asked them if they would like to contribute to a blog post, to help and inspire couples looking for their wedding cakes.

This chat took place over a cup of tea and of course a slice of delicious cake…

Firstly tell me a bit about yourselves?

Our motto is “cakes baked with love” and without sounding completely cheesy quite simply we love cake and setting up our own cake design business meant that we could be surrounded by cake every day.

Erica has always baked and even now, Charlie can remember Erica baking and designing the most fun birthday cakes for her and her sisters growing up.  These included a pink army tank (yes, really), a giant ladybird and that trusty favourite the still loved sweetie cake.

After much humming and harring we finally decided to set up our own cake design business at the very end of 2011 and it has been one baking adventure after the other ever since.  We started by attending small craft fairs, the first of which was the Kingsnorth School Christmas Fair, where we were so focussed on the cakes we forgot to bring any money to give as change.

We have both been lucky enough to have been taught by some of the top cake designers from the UK, USA and Australia including Emma Ball (Richard’s Cakes), Kaysie Lackey (The People’s Cake) and Trina Thomson (Sweet Ruby Cakes).  It’s always so amazing when you get to spend time with these very well known cake designers as they are so friendly and you realise deal with exactly the same issues in their businesses as you do.  Even they get told “it’s only a cake!”

 

Where do you get your inspiration when designing wedding cakes?

We realised the other day that everywhere we go we are always thinking in “wedding mode.

When Erica was on holiday in Menorca she came across some beautifully coloured local flowers, so of course took loads of quick holiday snaps of them and has already been sketching up ideas for a future show cake.

Charlie’s a member of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and every time she visits comes back full of ideas, she even loves the Art Deco tiling in the tea room!  Yes, she has been to see the Wedding Dress exhibition there three times and as it doesn’t close until early 2015, she’s sure she can squeeze in another visit.

Clients are our biggest inspiration and they do test our imagination.  Often a client will have a picture they have kept for many years and will be produced when they come to discuss their wedding cake.  Sometimes they want their animals (or children) in sugar or want to include their hobby on their cake.  This can be quite a challenge but always turns into a lot of fun.  One of our most recent wedding cakes included a modelled bride and groom singing and playing a sugar guitar at the top and the music for their first dance added onto the side of their middle tier.  As part of the design process we discussed exactly how our clients wanted the couple to be positioned on the cake, type of guitar to include (we have to admit we don’t know much about different types of guitar) and how they wanted the music interpreted.

 

What have been the most popular design for 2014 and what do you think trends are for 2015?

The most popular trend for 2014 for us has to be the Naked cake.  It just seems to have taken a lot of brides’fancy this year especially as the  vintage and rustic wedding trend shows no sign of slowing down.

What’s so fantastic about Naked cakes is that each design is still completely unique.  Most people when they think of Naked cakes simply think of a Victoria sponge covered with fruit.  That’s only one interpretation!  As with everything “wedding”you can go as outrageous or as classically simple as your client wants and they aren’t just summer wedding cakes.  In fact the last wedding cake we made was a Naked cake design, no decoration apart from a showpiece handmade sugar peony and the result was just as wow.

For almost all the Naked cakes that we have made this year, each tier has been a different flavour.  This has included all sorts of combinations from champagne and strawberry to coconut cream and blueberry…just talking about the different flavours is making us hungry!

Naked cakes have probably really taken off because so many people dislike fondant icing and you can never go wrong with some delicious buttercream.

In fact the Naked cake trend seems to be growing in popularity for 2015 rather than slowing down.  From everything we have seen the next trend for this design is the “Nearly-Naked”cake where rather than a dusting of icing sugar cascading over the cake, it is sharply covered with buttercream with only a hint of the cake peaking through.  We cannot wait to make one of these!

One of the biggest trends that we are noticing for next year is that couples don’t just want wow, unique wedding cakes they also want something a little bit different for their wedding favours.  The days of sugar almonds in a little gift bag (unless perhaps you are going for the retro look) are long gone.

Our more quirky favours have suddenly become really popular.  This is especially true for our Jars of Delights and our mini edible book cupcakes.  Both are cheekily indulgent, completely unique (you really can’t get more personal than an iced photo of the bride and groom) and something that our couples’guests can still take home with them and enjoy after the wedding day.

Of course we can’t mention favours without talking about macaroons.  Tricky to make, but definitely wow!  As with a couple’s wedding cake there are endless colour and flavour combinations available.  We don’t think that there are very many cake businesses in this area which offer macaroons, which is why we think for us they have suddenly become so popular.

 

Do you always have to have fruit cake?

We get asked this all the time, in fact some brides often ask us very worriedly whether they “have to have fruit cake?”  Despite fruit cake perhaps not being being as popular as it once was, we think we have made more fruit cakes this year that ever before.  Perhaps it’s having something of a comeback!

The main thing is if you do choose to have fruit cake we always tell our clients that they don’t have to have the whole cake made of fruit or are stuck with the bottom tier as fruit cake.  Although it is a heavy cake, because of the internal structure system that we use when stacking our cakes you can always have a small fruit cake as the top tier.  Perfect if you want a little hint of tradition and plan to keep the top tier.

 

When you order your wedding cake can you have more than one flavour?

We always say, it’s your wedding you can have whatever flavour you want.  Obviously some flavours and cake types work in better combination than others, but if you want a purple ombre sponge why not have one.

In fact one of favourite cakes included just that.  It involved one of the tiers being different shades of purple sponge with a rich white chocolate buttercream  The couple hadn’t told any of their family what they were planning and it was definitely the hit of the wedding!

 

What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your wedding cakes?

We have received some lovely compliments from clients and it’s always fantastic to hear that every last slice was eaten.

We think that probably the loveliest compliment was from Natalie, who married Dave earlier this year.  She runs her own cupcake business (but quite understandably did not want the stress of making her own wedding cake) so to be told that our carrot cake was the best she had ever tasted was just amazing.  She has also since ordered other cakes from us.

 

What sets you apart from your competitors?

As with all cake businesses we like to meet with our clients on a one to one basis.

However, what makes us different is that we offer a Tasting Weekend twice a year, by appointment only held at Bluebell Kitchen itself.  We set up Bluebell Kitchen like a mini “personalised” wedding cake show.  This gives us an opportunity to showcase all of our cakes. We take the wedding fair idea and we like to think that we turn it into a very personalised event, after all we are a home based business so it’s almost like having a mini wedding fair at home.

Our potential clients can really take their time and look at the show cakes up close and chat through all of their ideas without being rushed.  There is no charge to come along and although it takes a long time to plan it is always so much fun to think up different flavours that we hope everyone will enjoy trying and being involved in the early stages of someone’s wedding day.

Limiting the number of events that we take on per weekend ensures that our clients receive the utmost in personalised service.  We really want every client to feel like their wedding cake is the only one that we are making.

 

How much should you look to spend on a high quality cake?

That’s always a tricky question.  Everyone has a different perception of what’s expensive and even what’s a high quality cake!

With every wedding cake we learn something new.  It is important to stick to our principles as to the cost of a wedding cake, where pricing is one of the most difficult things to deal with.  We do this by ensuring the client feels that their wedding cake is the only wedding cake that we are making at that time.  We encourage the client to meet with us on several occasions between ordering their cake and the actual wedding day in order to build up an excellent relationship and understand that we want to spend as much time as needed on their dream cake.

Everyone has different budgets for different parts of their wedding and we realise that their wedding cake is only a tiny cog in whole wedding. If a price quoted for a cake is beyond the clients’  budget we are happy to discuss this further, we can then make suggestions as to how we can keep within their budget but at the same time explain to them that their cake will be a simpler version of their original idea but still unique to them.

This is also why we are launching our Purely Bluebell range this winter.  It is the perfect way to have the cake of your dreams but without blowing the budget!

There are five designs in this season’s Purely Bluebell range – The Lizzie, The Louisa, The Georgiana, The Kitty and The Lydia.  We’re really excited because everyone deserves a delicious handmade wedding cake whatever their budget.

We wanted to ensure that these designs were more than simply a flawlessly iced cake with a ribbon!  That’s why we’ve included everything from perfectly piped cupcakes (The Lydia) – who doesn’t a love buttercream iced cupcake, swirled piping (The Georgiana), handmade full blown sugar rose focus flower (The Kitty), waterfall of ombre cascading hydrangeas (The Lizzie) and not forgetting a real splash of colour (The Louisa).  They are set designs, but may be subtly altered to match a client’s colours/ theme, that way they are truly personal to every client.

Thank you so much for your time, Erica and Charlie and I hope this has been a helpful insight for anyone looking for a fantastic cake!

Here are a selection of photographs from the photo shoot, for more information on commercial packages which start at £100 per hour (min 3 hours).

This picture shows a vintage tea cup and a slice of cakeThis is a picture of cake in a jarThis is a picture of cupcakes with lilac flowers on themThese are photos of two wedding cakes one blue and one has a yellow flowerThis is a picture of two wedding cakes a white and a pink one

This is a colourful floral wedding cakeThis is two bright wedding cakes